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NHL players to wear custom skates honoring Willie O’Ree

willie o'ree skates

Recognizing Black History Month, Bauer Hockey designed a custom skate graphic honoring Willie O’Ree, the NHL’s first Black player, which will be worn by several NHL players during February.


Willie O’Ree will feature on the skates of several NHL players as part of Black History Month.

The Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane and Maple Leafs’ William Nylander are among the NHL players planning to wear them at some point in February. The NHL will then auction off the signed Bauer skates. All proceeds will benefit Black Girl Hockey Club, a non-profit organization that unites Black women in hockey and helps make the game more accessible.

The Hockey Hall of Famer’s image is on one side of the skate with the “All I needed was the opportunity” and “January 18, 1958,” the date he became the NHL’s first Black player when he debuted for the Bruins. The other side features the words “Diversity,” “Equality,” “Inclusion,” “Inspire,” “Respect,” and “BLM,” for Black Lives Matter. The phrases “The work isn’t done yet,” “Make the impossible possible” and “A movement not a moment” also appear.

[MORE: Hockey Culture: Willie O’Ree discusses significance of MLK Jr. Day in NHL]

O’Ree’s No. 22, which the Bruins will retire next season, is on the skate’s tongue and heel.

According to Bauer, the graphic on the Willie O’Ree skates was designed by the Maple Leafs’ Wayne Simmonds, J.T. Brown, agent Eustace King, and Terry Smith, who created the original Sharks logo.

“I think of Willie O’Ree like an astronaut,” said Simmonds. “He was a trailblazer as a player and off the ice his role as an ambassador continues to welcome new players and families to our game. It’s been an honor for me to participate in creating this skate, and I can’t wait to wear it on the ice.”


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.